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Haas Drivers Set For USGP

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 21 2018

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean will start Sunday’s United States Grand Prix P8.

American-owned Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen qualified eighth and 12th, respectively, Saturday for the seventh edition of the Pirelli United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

Qualifying on-pole was championship point-leader Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes. The Brit’s fast lap of 1-minute, 32.237-seconds set a track qualifying record and was 0.061-seconds better than runnerup Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari, the four-time World Driving Champion from Germany. Hamilton, the four-time/reigning World Champion, posted his 81st career Formula One pole, his series-leading ninth this season and third at COTA.

Despite qualifying second, Vettel will start fifth after incurring a three-spot grid penalty for an infraction during practice on Friday. That moved Ferrari teammate and third-place qualifier Kimi Räikkönen of Finland, the 2007 World Champion, to the outside of Row 1. ABC’s live telecast of the 56-lap/191.634-mile/308.405-kilometer event will begin at 1:30 p.m. (EDT).

Grosjean set the 10th-fastest time in Q1 with a lap of 1:34.892 around the 3.428-mile/5.513-kilometer/20-turn track in Travis County. Magnussen was 12th-quickest with a lap of 1:34.972. Each driver handily made the top-15 cutoff to advance to Q2, with Grosjean posting the seventh-fastest time at 1:34.419 while Magnussen was 12th with a lap of 1:34.732. Only the top-10 drivers moved into Q3.

Competing in Q3 for the 11th straight time _ a streak that began June 23 during qualifying for the French Grand Prix and the longest such stretch of his Formula One career _ Grosjean qualified eighth with a lap of 1:34.250.

“I was happy to be in Q3 again. It’s too bad Kevin couldn’t quite make it into the session,” said Grosjean, driver of the Ferrari-powered No. 8 Haas VF-18. “Maybe we’re not quite ‘best of the rest’ this weekend, at least with the conditions we had today. Hopefully, we’ll have a bit more for the race.

“I’m really looking forward to the race. We’ve got one car that can choose its tires for the race start, and then I’ll start on the ultrasofts. It should be about 15 degrees hotter in terms of track temperature. There’s a lot of difference (for Sunday). I think we’re pretty much in a good spot. I think we’ve got a good car. It’s exciting to know that we’re in the mix there with Force India sixth and Renault seventh. This midfield battle is pretty amazing.”

With four events remaining on this year’s 21-race FIA World Championship calendar, Haas F1 Team has tallied 84 points and is fifth in the constructors’ standings with the goal of overtaking fourth-place Renault.

“This morning we had the first proper running of the weekend. We learned quite a bit in FP3,” said Guenther Steiner, team principal. “Then qualifying eighth and 12th, that’s our best qualifying result here in America, so at least we’re going uphill. We were never that good here previously.

“I think we’re in a good position to score points with both cars. Romain had a little bit of oversteer, unfortunately, in the last corner, so he was eighth instead of sixth, but that’s racing, and some you win and some you lose. We’re still in a good position. Let’s go racing.”

Both Grosjean, of France, and Magnussen, of Denmark, ran exclusively on the Pirelli P Zero Purple ultrasoft tire throughout qualifying.

“I was struggling a lot in Sector 3, the low-speed corners,” said Magnussen, driver of the No. 20 Haas VF-18. “I just had a bit too much instability at the rear, which I struggle a little bit with. My lap was OK. P12 is not satisfying, but we can do some stuff with strategy and, hopefully, we’ll get into the points.

“The midfield is so close. It’s only something like two-tenths of a second from where I am to the top of that fight. I just missed that tenth or two to get me in front there. We missed that (Saturday), but who knows (Sunday). With strategy a bit more open for people outside of the top-10, maybe there’ll be an advantage there. We’ll see what we can do.”

Before Grosjean, Magnussen and their Formula One counterparts participated in knockout qualifying, Free Practice 3 finally presented dry track conditions for the first time all weekend. Grosjean started on the Red supersoft tire and ran 14 laps before switching to Purple ultrasofts. Magnussen did the opposite. He began FP3 on ultrasofts and turned eight laps until changing to supersofts. After five laps, Magnussen returned to ultrasofts to finish out the session.

Grosjean totaled 19 laps and set the 10th-fastest time with a 1:35.468 on his 17th tour. Magnussen also tallied 19 laps and earned his best time on his 16th lap _ a 1:35.770 that put him 13th overall. Vettel was quickest in FP3 at 1:33.797, just 0.046-seconds better than Räikkönen.

Haas F1 Team debuted in the FIA Formula One World Championship in 2016, becoming the first American F1 entrant since 1986. Haas F1 is based at the same Kannapolis, N.C., campus that houses Stewart-Haas Racing, the championship-winning NASCAR Cup Series organization Gene Haas co-owns with retired three-time champion Tony Stewart.

Founded by Haas in 1983, Haas Automation, Inc., is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools and the team’s primary sponsor. Haas Automation employs approximately 1,300 at its 1.1-million square-foot/102,000 square-meter headquarters in Oxnard, Calif. Haas Automation exports its machines to more than 60 countries through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, October 21 2018
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